Black Lung, Incurable and Fatal, Stalks Coal Miners Anew – Editorial (New York Times – December 24, 2016)

Appalachian health officials report a shocking rise in cases of black lung — the deadly coal-mining disease thought to have been reined in by a landmark federal law passed in 1969.

Young miners are proving particularly vulnerable because the thinner coal seams now being worked in Appalachia leave them vulnerable to a more volatile black lung strain rooted in silica dust, according to an investigative report by National Public Radio.

The emergence of a new generation of miners gasping for their lives should give President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to revive the industry, reason to reflect on a safer course for the very workers he claimed to prize as a candidate. There is no known cure for black lung, a wearying disease responsible for 78,000 deaths since 1968.

Two reports confirm a resurgence of the disease in a virulent form called progressive massive fibrosis (P.M.F.). The NPR study, based on data collected from 11 clinics, confirmed 962 cases of P.M.F. in the past decade.

This month, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported on a small Kentucky clinic where 60 cases of P.M.F. were reported. Before their Kentucky report, federal health officials had counted a total of only 99 cases nationally in the last five years.

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